Religious tyranny, not religious freedom

Among many issues concerning reforms in national health care currently being implemented, one issue is represented by conservatives as involving religious freedom. Their central argument is that religious institutions and business owners should not be required to provide health-care plans which provide services that conflict with their own religious beliefs.

For example, such plans could provide contraceptives for women, which the Roman Catholic Church opposes, or abortions, which many conservatives oppose. But is this really an issue of religious freedom? Amendment I to our United States Constitution shows that this is a form of religious tyranny instead. Here is the salient portion of that amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...”

With its first 10 words, Amendment I clearly specifies that government must not establish, promote or endorse any specific religion or compel public adherence to any religion. How does this principle apply to health-care plans provided by business owners and religious institutions?

When such health-care providers deny particular medical services based on their own religious objections, they compel every subscriber to their health plans to adhere to the providers’ religious exceptions, regardless of whether that subscriber is or is not an adherent to each provider’s own religion. If government were to allow such forced adherence to any specific religiously-based exceptions, it would be endorsing and compelling adherence to specific religions. That is the very definition of religious tyranny.

Allowing such religiously-based exceptions would create chaos in our national health-care system. In piecemeal fashion, plan-by-plan, women could be denied such fundamental services as contraception and such constitutionally-protected rights as reproductive freedom of choice. Their search for adequate health care would become extremely difficult.

Such government-approved religious exceptions could create extreme situations as follows. Some religious denominations reject medical science entirely and embrace nothing more than faith healing. They do no more than pray for miraculous divine intervention to heal the sick, even for common, curable afflictions like appendicitis. Should business owners who believe only in faith healing be allowed to deny medical care to their non-believing employees? Our government intervenes to compel medical care for children in such situations.

Unscrupulous business owners even could invent their own religious exceptions to weasel out of requirements to provide health plans for their employees. The resulting litigation would create even more chaos in our national health-care system and burden courts at many levels with cases lasting for years. Thus, such religious exceptions never can be allowed in our national health-care system.

The next six words of Amendment I still protect religious institutions and business owners in their personal health-care choices. They never have to subject themselves personally to medical services offered by their health-care plans to which they object on religious grounds, nor do any followers of their particular religions. Thus, their personal religious freedom remains completely intact.

But such institutions and business owners have no right to impose their religiously-based exceptions on non-believers. Such impositions embody the very essence of religious tyranny, not religious freedom. Amendment I clearly shows why.

Copyright © 2012 James F. Andrus;all rights reserved. Andrus earned a degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin, and an additional degree in computer science from Jan Juan College. He lives in Cortez, where he is a National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer.

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